Friday, August 31, 2007

Spelling problems...where is the blame?

I am not sure if I have some sort of brain malfunction or if I might have missed some critical years of schooling during a tramatic time in my life or maybe I just have an incredibly lazy brain, but I can't spell! I have always loved to write just as much as I have always had deficiencies in spelling. As with most Americans, I need someone to blame. Currently my targets are English teachers and the FCC.

Back in the early 80's Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and a host of other geeks were setting the world on fire with all of their new computers and the host of posibilities that could change the world as we know it. The common man sat back with that, wait and see attitude that usually slows down traffic so much when someone rolls their car off the freeway. Everyone looses concentration, slows down a bit, hopes to see something exciting, then lacking any excitement, picks up speed and heads on their way resuming their life. The FCC did not slow down as much as the rest of us. The FCC oversees communication networks and aims to keep rules and regulations so that communication channels do not get confused, clogged up, or interfered with. The FCC threatened the major modem companies at the time. Each modem company had a different way of communicating the same information over the phone lines. With so many different menthods for the same information to be running around our precious phone lines, the FCC dictated that the modem companies MUST come up with one protocol by X date or they would be kicked off the phone lines. Battles and negotiations ensued with the end result that the companies finally ended up with one format to transmit all those special packets that give us the Internet. We the consumer, simply went out and bought the new product that was necessary for our cumminication to continue.

If the FCC is so concerned with communication protocols as illustrated in the story above, then why has the FCC not stepped into Education to say, "Hey all you English teachers, come up with one set of spelling rules ... or else"? Evidently, the FCC only cares about communication that directly could affect someone's profit margin.

So now what about all you English teachers out there. I have never met a teacher that did not acknowledge that many students suffer with spelling and that the different origins of the words may help to add to the confusion. See, the argument goes that different words came from differnt languages and to keep the cultural heritage of that language we spell the word in some way that reflects that orgin. That is a silly rational. Think about America. We come from all sorts of countries and cultures, but we all have to conform to sets of rules and laws so we can all get along and have some order. So why can't SOAP and ROPE be spelled the same way? I have yet to hear a logical reason for why a culture, that is so into assimilating the best of everything from it's peoples to come up with new standards, can not come up with a standard way to spell it's words. English teachers, the people most responsible for teaching the basics of spelling, seem to be in the correct position to (lead, leed, lede) the charge for a standard set of rules that do not change.

They say Latin is dead as is the greek language. Ironically, I can spell almost any word that has a latin or greek root. Is it possible that these two dead languages are the only ones out there to stay consistent with the spelling of it's phonetics? Hmmm, maybe that is why they had to die, di, or maybe it's dye? As long as I have to write science terms, I feel comfortable. When doing "normal" writting, I can only say "Thank God for spell check!!!!!" I know it has limitations, but I feel the limitations of spell check are far fewer than all of the various reasons out there for spelling our words the way we do.

I keep looking for those forces out there looking to standardizing our spelling. Looking to the Feds I see nothing, teachers... nada, common person...we can't even remember those silly rules from school, how about the kids...well, I can actually point to kids being able to do something all of us adults have not been able to do for so many years. Kids are helping to create a language through their online chatting that is consistant, efficient, and has it's own natural beauty to it. Is there a different way to spell lol? How about brb? Using the symbols of our language, these chatters are creating a language designed to keep up with the incredible pace of technology and learning. This language allows people to state an entire sentence in only a few characters. Why then, should a student care about all those silly spelling rules and stuff especially when the rules are not consistant and the language itself is so much slower and inefficient? If we were all in the same room right now I can guarentee that we could identify all the English teachers in the room based on how many veins were sticking out at the mention of chatting. English teachers, and teachers in general are charged with teaching the language we use. One could question who "we" are. Yes, in our adult lives we have experienced standards that have sort of been accepted for many years. There is a generation that is looking to the future of our communication and that "we" group can not understand why the language we use has to be so slow and lacks consistent rules. There is definately a comunication divide in our classrooms. Teachers want kids to be able to communicate and kids think they have a better way to communicate.

So until the powers that be can spell soap and rope the same, I guess I will have to roflmao irl w/ :) cos 2M imho f2f will b way diff f/ chatspeak. Iac I gtg. Cul8r + hand.


For those of us needing translation, you may find most of this new language online at sites like

Maybe you need a translator?

Remember: f we dun chAng lngwij 2 b mo efficient, it wil chang 4 us.


Ed Latham said...

had to add this too in case you have not seen it

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Jim Burke said...

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped
to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear
with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12
or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.
Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud
hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Jim Burke said...

Check this site out, Ed:

Simplified Spelling Society

Ed Latham said...

As alwasy Jim, you are the Linkmiester! Love the Mark Twain! That man was so ahead of his time and so timeless. He and Ben Franklin are right up there as two of the most knowledgable and wise men in history.

That link is super. It reaffirms everything I have been feeling since 3rd grade. Well, maybe not the bed wetting views at the time, but you get the general idea that I agree with the views posted in this link you shared.

In the link he points out the political and $ issues that would be necessary for such a change in society. Nothing like putting a stake right through the heart of the idea. I do like the examples of two different alternative spellings that have been presented. One version just drops the redundent letters we throw in words all the tiem. That version I can see people adopting fairly easily. The other version would be difficult for all of literate people to adjust. Habits are so darn hard to even think about changing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim
Love your posting! Especially the one you talk about the Latin language. I love this language (not dead...:-))and I've been using a wonderful Latin Dictionary. Hope you like it:-)